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Flows of Communication

Communication Flows in an Organization

Communication flows in five main directions in an organization as follows:

  • Upwards
  • Downwards
  • Lateral
  • Diagonally
  • Externally

Downward Flow of Communication

Downward Flow of Communication: Downward communication is that form of communication which flows from a high level to a low level in an organization. In other words, downward communication is that form of communication or a chain of command that flows from the superiors to their juniors. This flow of communication is carried out by the managers in order to convey professional information to the lower-level subordinates. Employees or subordinates need this information to do their work and also for fulfilling the managers expectations. Managers use this form of communication for the following intentions:

Presenting a feedback on the performance of the employees

  • Providing directions about the job
  • Providing a full knowledge about the job to the employees and to convey to them about their job relevance with other organizational jobs.
  • Conveying the goal and the vision of the organization to the employees.
  • Stressing the areas that require attention.

Some important examples of downward communication are circulars, holding group meetings, organizational publications etc. For downward communication to be error-free and efficient, managers must observe the following:

  • Specify the objectives of communication
  • Make certain that the message is precise, specific and clear-cut.
  • Make use of the best method of communication to put across the message to the recipient in the correct manner.

Upward Flow of Communication

Upward communication is that which flows to a high level in any organization. It gives an insight on the functioning of the organization. In order to communicate their problems to their superiors, the subordinates use this upward communication. The subordinates also use this mode of communication to convey about their understanding of the downward communication. The employees also use this to covey all their opinions and ideas and also to take part in the process of making any decisions.

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Upward communication gives a chance to the employees to raise their voice against any issues which they find as dis-satisfactory and in this way they will be fully committed and faithful to the organization. The managers also get a chance to know about the feelings of the subordinates regarding their peers, their jobs, their seniors and also the organization generally. The managers can then take certain actions to improvise the situation in the organization.

There are many ways to improvise upward communication such as the complaint and suggestion box, the Grievance Redressal System and job satisfaction surveys etc. Some other examples of upward communication are conducting surveys about the attitude of employees, employee’s letters, reports of performance which are made by the lower management for evaluating by the higher management.

Horizontal Flow of Communication

Communication which happens at similar levels of hierarchy in an organization is known as lateral communication. i.e., interaction between managers at identical levels, or between peers, between the members of a horizontal level in an organization. The advantage of this kind of lateral communication is as follows:

  • It saves a lot of time.
  • It aids in coordinating the task or job.
  • It also aids in teamwork among all the team members.
  • It offers social help and emotional help to the members of the organization.
  • It aids in resolving different problems of the organization.
  • It can also be utilized to solve all the disagreements of a department within it and also with other departments.

Diagonal Flow of Communication

It is that type of communication which happens between a manager and employees belonging to other work groups It does not show on any chart of an organization. For instance - a training manager’s interaction with Operations personnel in order to design a training module.

External Flow of Communication

Communication which happens between a manager and outside groups such as banks, suppliers, financial institutes, vendors etc. For instance – the managing director would have to communicate with the Bank Manager in order to raise capital.


Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 10, 2013:

An interesting and insightful Hub thanks for this one

Sullen91 from Mid-Atlantic Region, US on December 22, 2012:

Expound on the last two flows of communication or risk the impression of generalities.

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